BERLIN (JTA) — More than 10,000 protesters blocked a major neo-Nazi march in the former East German city of Dresden, forming a human chain surrounding the center of the city.
An estimated 6,500 far-right extremists from across Europe had convened Saturday in Germany to mark the 65th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War II, which killed an estimated 25,000 civilians. The right-wing extremists were forced to call off their march.
Protesters prevented "the biggest neo-Nazi march in Europe," Lena Roth, a spokeswoman for protest organizer Dresden Without Nazis told the Deutsche Welle news service. The aim of the protesters was to discourage neo-Nazis from planning future marches.
Far-rightists have used the Dresden bombing anniversary to push for recognition of German suffering during World War II in a tone that comes close to Holocaust denial, critics say. Neo-Nazis, including leading members of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany, refer to the Dresden "bombing Holocaust" and belittle Nazi crimes against humanity.
Several organizations — urged on by Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz and including all mainstream political parties — rallied against the neo-Nazi march with largely peaceful demonstrations calling attention to the victims of National Socialism. They reminded the right-wingers that Germany started World War II, bringing disaster to much of Europe. Some protesters, including several prominent German athletes, formed a human chain to block the neo-Nazi march.
Others attacked cars and buses in which the right-wingers had traveled to Dresden and set fire to trash bins, blocking the route of the neo-Nazi march. Police ultimately informed the right-wing marchers that authorities could not guarantee their safety and urged them to call off the march.
Meanwhile, ceremonies were held in the city to remember the victims of the Allied air raids, with wreath layings, church services and memorial concerts. The raids were started on Feb. 13, 1945.